Power of engineering : changing the perceptions of year 9 and 10 female school students towards an engineering career

Briody, Felicity, Goh, Steven, & Dawes, Les A. (2012) Power of engineering : changing the perceptions of year 9 and 10 female school students towards an engineering career. In Mann, Llewellyn & Daniel, Scott (Eds.) Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, The Engineering & Science Education Research (ESER) group, Faculty of Engineering & Industrial Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Vic..

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Abstract

BACKGROUND The engineering profession in Australia has failed to attract young women for the last decade or so despite all the effort that have gone into promoting engineering as a preferred career choice for girls. It is a missed opportunity for the profession to flourish as a heterogeneous team. Many traditional initiatives and programs have failed to make much impact or at best incremental improvement into attracting and retaining more women in the profession. The reasons why girls and young women in most parts of the world show little interest in engineering haven't changed, despite all the efforts to address them, the issue proposed here in this paper is with the perceptions of engineering in the community and the confidence to pursue it. This gender imbalance is detrimental for the engineering profession, and hence an action-based intervention strategy was devised by the Women in Engineering Qld Chapter of Engineers Australia in 2012 to change the perceptions of school girls by redesigning the engagement strategy and key messages. As a result, the “Power of Engineering Inc” (PoE) was established as a not-for-profit organisation, and is a collaborative effort between government, schools, universities, and industry. This paper examines a case study in changing the perceptions of year 9 and 10 school girls towards an engineering career. PURPOSE To evaluate and determine the effectiveness of an intervention in changing the perceptions of year 9 and 10 school girls about engineering career options, but specifically, “What were their perceptions of engineering before today and have those perceptions changed?” DESIGN/METHOD The inaugural Power of Engineering (PoE) event was held on International Women’s Day, Thursday 8 March 2012 and was attended by 131 high school female students (year 9 and 10) and their teachers. The key message of the day was “engineering gives you the power to change the world”. A questionnaire was conducted with the participating high school female students, collecting both quantitative and qualitative data. The survey instrument has not been validated. RESULTS The key to the success of the event was as a result of collaboration between all participants involved and the connection created between government, schools, universities and industry. Of the returned surveys (109 of 131), 91% of girls would now consider a career in engineering and 57% who had not considered engineering before the day would now consider a career in engineering. Data collected found significant numbers of negative and varying perceptions about engineering careers prior to the intervention. CONCLUSIONS The evidence in this research suggests that the intervention assisted in changing the perceptions of year 9 and 10 female school students towards engineering as a career option. Whether this intervention translates into actual career selection and study enrolment is to be determined. In saying this, the evidence suggests that there is a critical and urgent need for earlier interventions prior to students selecting their subjects for year 11 and 12. This intervention could also play its part in increasing the overall pool of students engaged in STEM education.

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ID Code: 56050
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: HERN
ISBN: 9780987177230
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > INTERDISCIPLINARY ENGINEERING (091500) > Engineering Practice (091503)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > OTHER ENGINEERING (099900) > Engineering not elsewhere classified (099999)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > Institutes > Institute for Future Environments
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 please consult the authors
Deposited On: 03 Jan 2013 02:44
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2013 04:17

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